San Francisco’s preservationists do not want you to have to take a photograph of Golden Gate Park to remember its current look.
They would rather freeze all its historical features — potentially the color of the Stow Lake boathouse or the width of horseshoe pits — by labeling the entire 1,017-acre park a living landmark. One of the Historic Preservation Commission’s New Year’s resolutions is to give the park that status, which would mean it must approve all future alterations.
“Obviously Golden Gate Park is an extremely important resource for The City, and it’s already listed on the national register,” commission Vice President Courtney Damkroger said. “We want to be sure all historic resources in the park remain, and we want to work with [the Recreation and Park Department] on figuring out what the contributing resources are to its historic significance.”
If The City’s biggest urban backyard is added to a list of more than 260 properties that are already designated San Francisco landmarks, the commission would oversee park officials’ planning in the future.
The idea has already met opposition.
“To deny future generations the opportunity to change their parks would be a real loss,” said Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the local think tank San Francisco Planning and Urban Research. “The thing that we all have to keep in mind is that our idea of how we recreate and what parks are for have changed over the generations, and it’s likely in the future people will have their own ideas.”
The commission estimated it will spend 300 hours during the next fiscal year to create a plan for the 140-year-old park, and it has already spent about 70 hours taking pictures and cataloguing possible icons.
Rec and Park staff recently listed their three biggest park projects for next year — to increase mobile vendors and renovate the tennis club and the Stow Lake boathouse. The fate of the projects might depend on the landmark-status debate.
“It’s certainly a delicate balance, weighing the importance of historic preservation with the need to keep the park manageable from a maintenance perspective and offering park users the modern amenities they need and desire,” Rec and Park spokesman Elton Pon wrote in an e-mail.
Commissioners will hear the first landmark presentation in January, but they said they expect several meetings on the proposal.
Golden Gate Park age: 140 years
Visitors per year: 13 million
Acres: More than 1,000
Trees: More than 30,000
Money spent on capital projects: More than $90 million
Landmarks already within the park:
Sources: Historic Preservation Commission, Rec and Park